Staff fear deal will cost jobs

June 23, 2006

UCU members at Sussex are worried that the university will sacrifice posts to fund the 13.1% pay rise, report Phil Baty and Chloe Stothart

Sussex University this week became the first institution to warn that the proposed national pay deal could force it to alter its plans after it calculated that its salary bill would rise by £2.5 million more than expected by 2009-10.

The increase includes the cost of the 13.1 per cent pay rise over three years, struck by employers and the University and College Union, and other wage pressures. Alasdair Smith, the vice-chancellor, said the rise would require "tough decisions" to be taken.

Sussex had already angered unions by saying it would cut 45 jobs in order to create 75 others. It intends in the short term to set up about 40 new posts and then to create up to 35 more later in the year.

The university will begin to assess the impact of the pay deal on this and other plans when it presents new financial and academic plans to its council and senate later in this term.

Professor Smith told staff: "It's too soon to say in detail what it will mean for our ongoing programme of investment and costs savings, but we have to look critically at our future financial plans and be prepared to take some tough decisions."

Julian Saurin, president of the UCU branch at Sussex, said: "The question everyone is asking is: 'is there now an academic plan at all?' There appears to be an abandonment of the academic plan with no plan B."

Having already made some voluntary redundancies, the university was now at "core staff", he said, adding that the planned cuts would create "fundamental damage to the sheer capacity of the university to do its job - namely teaching and research".

The university has formed a redundancy committee to implement compulsory redundancies if too few staff volunteer to leave.

UCU officials at Sussex had been angered when the university confirmed that the second phase of expansion would be contingent on the loss of 45 existing academic posts. Their worries were exacerbated again this week when, at a staff meeting on Monday, academics forecast that the university's deficit would expand to £2.25 million a year over the next four years - with 60 per cent of this growth a result of the projected effect of the pay deal.

Stressing that the university was on target to reduce its deficit and, eventually, move into surplus, a Sussex spokesman said staff predictions of a growing deficit were the result of "an honest misunderstanding".

The university projects that its deficit will improve to £1.3 million from a total spend of £114 million this year, followed by a Pounds 100,000 surplus in 2006-07 and a £3 million surplus by 2009-10.

The spokesman said that 28 new posts had already been advertised and that more recruitment was planned. He said the union was spouting "empty rhetoric".

He said that it was impossible to predict how many staff would take voluntary redundancy by the June 30 deadline, and said that it was not certain that compulsory redundancies would be needed.

The pay deal would force Sussex to make "hard choices" about how much and where it makes investments for future development, the spokesman said.

He said: "The heart of the issue in relation to the cost of the pay settlement at Sussex is what the implications are for the investments we plan to make over the coming five-year period, and how we can ensure that new income sources such as fees can be devoted to investment in academic strength and the student experience."

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